Orlando Magic’s leading trio carrying team on win streak

Terrence Ross continues to make a ton of shots as the Orlando Magic are streaking and playing their best right now. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
Terrence Ross continues to make a ton of shots as the Orlando Magic are streaking and playing their best right now. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic’s offense can be devastatingly simple. That is what happens when your top player is doing the things he is doing.

Nikola Vucevic is still awaiting word Tuesday to find out if he will make his second All-Star team. His stat line — 24.1 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game and a 54.5-percent effective field goal percentage — certainly suggests he will be there.

His closing kick has been especially impressive as the Magic have started to play better, winning four of their last five games. Nikola Vucevic has averaged 27.8 points per game, 12.6 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game while posting a 55.9-percent effective field goal percentage.

In that time he scored 42 points against the Sacramento Kings and back-to-back games with 30 points in his last two outings. All three games were wins.

The offense for the Magic then can be actually quite simple.

"“Give Vooch the ball. It ain’t rocket science,” Dwayne Bacon said after the team’s practice Monday. “What else do you want us to do? Get him the ball, he knows how to pass, he knows how to rebound and he knows how to score. That’s the most intriguing thing is he can pass so well. He had a triple-double the other day. He’s far from selfish. He just takes what the defense gives him. If they try to double, he passes out. Guys are hitting shots. That’s what we have to do to win. Keep feeding him and we have a great chance to win every game.”"

The Magic have given the ball to Vucevic plenty and he has delivered during the course of this win streak. But the team is winning because he has had help.

Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross are each playing their best of the season and carrying the Orlando Magic offensively during a three-game win streak.

Evan Fournier recorded season highs in his last two games, scoring 29 points and getting to the line for 13 free throw attempts in Sunday’s win over the Detroit Pistons. He is averaging 25.3 points per game and shooting a 65.6-percent effective field goal percentage in three games since returning from a five-game absence because of back spasms.

Terrence Ross, too, has continued his scoring tear. He is averaging 23.7 points per game and hitting on 60.0-percent of his 3-point shots during this win streak. He is posting 20.9 points per game on 40.0-percent 3-point shooting in his last eight games.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Magic’s three best players are all playing their best at the same time. It is pretty hard to lose when that is the case.

Heavy Scoring Load

The Orlando Magic have relied heavily on these three players.

The trio scored 60.7-percent of the team’s points in the win over the New York Knicks, 66.1-percent of the team’s points in the win over the Golden State Warriors and 79.0-percent of the team’s points in the win over the Detroit Pistons. No other player scored in double figures as the Magic easily defeated the Pistons on Sunday.

For the season, that trio of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross have accounted for 47.1-percent of the team’s total points and their combined average of 58.9 points per game accounts for 55.8-percent of the team’s average total.

This is not so abnormal. The Brooklyn Nets’ leading trio of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant account for 67.4-percent of the Nets’ average scoring. But it is not typical of a team like the Magic that usually relies on a more balanced scoring effort.

Orlando, despite its success in the last five games, still has one of the worst offenses in the league. The Magic rank 20th in the league in offensive rating, scoring 109.1 points per 100 possessions since Feb. 12.

"“Basketball is a game where whoever has the best offensive player on the floor at that time always has an advantage,” coach Steve Clifford said after practice Monday. “What you need to be able to do though is you have to be able to get the ball to your best players where they can either score or draw help. And then you need the spacing and decision-making to play off those situations. We’re going to need to find ways to do that and get those fourth and fifth scorers as we go along here.”"

Clifford, ever the coach’s son, said the biggest responsibility for any coach is get their three best players better shots than the other team’s best players. Orlando has certainly done that.

But it is also clear this is not entirely sustainable for a team that has its offensive problems. What happens when the Magic’s stars burn out a bit? It feels like it is a lot to ask Vucevic to score 30 points every game and for both Fournier and Ross to keep going at this level.

Finding secondary scorers will be critical for the team to succeed in the long run.

Seeking balance

The big win over the Golden State Warriors came thanks to some clutch shooting from Chuma Okeke but no one else scored in double figures outside of that big trio. That game became about surviving the onslaught.

Even Terrence Ross has struggled when he has played in lineups alone. The Orlando Magic have a 94.4 offensive rating according to NBAWOWY from Add More Funds during this last five-game stretch. Theoretically, adding more healthy players will put Ross back in bench lineups he is familiar. That appears to still be a process.

Orlando is still going to need better scoring performances from Dwayne Bacon to get more from these bench groups and provide better scoring balance to the team.

Still, the attack remains the same. Get the ball to the team’s best player and work through him.

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"“We have enough talent with me and [Terrence Ross] and [Chuma Okeke] and guys in that second unit, we have enough scoring in the second group,” Dwayne Bacon said after practice Monday. “The balance is very well right now. In the second group, we go to T. But if T wants a break, then I can get us a bucket. In the first group, we go to Vooch. But if Vooch wants a break, Evan can get us a bucket. A lot of teams don’t have the balance that we have right now, especially as we get deeper. And that’s why we’re winning.”"

Bacon said he believes the team has good balance between its starting and reserve groups. Certainly the Magic would like to see more consistent production off the bench — Bacon has taken something of a backseat during this win streak, scoring 17 against the Knicks but then going scoreless against the Warriors.

The potential returns of both Cole Anthony and Aaron Gordon after the All-Star Break would give the Magic another potential offensive weapon to give the team balance. But that is at least a few weeks away still.

Orlando is just happy to be playing better offensively and turning the corner. They are playing better. Their best players are playing better. And they are playing and growing the way they want to play.

It feels like a lot of players on the Magic are feeling the momentum on their side.

"“I think this is the way we play,” Ross said after practice Monday. “This is the way we’re supposed to be playing. We’re all playing well right now. I think with guys coming back, it puts us in familiar territory of having certain guys on the floor who you are familiar with. I think that’s why we’re playing as well as we are. As long as we have these pieces with us playing the way that we need to, we’re going to keep scoring.”"

There will certainly be adversity again at some point. The team will undoubtedly have a game and a stretch where it will need offensive diversity. The team still has tougher games ahead to close the first half of the schedule.

Next. Defense is the base for the Orlando Magic to grow. dark

Orlando will not be able to rely solely on these three forever. But the Magic will need these three to continue playing at a high level to continue picking up wins and play their best.